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  • Writer's pictureLauren Morris

The Negativity Bias and Improv

The negativity bias is the phenomena by which humans give more psychological weight to bad experiences than a good ones. There are a variety of studies out there and most say that negative emotions have about three times the impact on us than positive emotions.

There are reasons we as humans have this bias, however, the reason it exists many times interferes with our everyday lives and draws attention to the negative when it's not an actual harmful situation.

There is a lot we can do to work on adjusting our lens, understanding this bias, and working toward experiencing positive emotions more often.

Negativity bias comes up quite a lot in improv. Improvisers new to their journey tend to access negative emotions or get into conflict scenes because they seem easier to access thus they assume, easier to perform. When we do this though, we are reinforcing that negative bias and it will not just impact our scenes and artistic growth but reinforces it for our everyday lives outside of the improv classroom.

It's why I constantly teach, coach, and attempt to perform with a "be awesome" lens. We are already so conditioned for negative that we constantly need to build the muscle of making positive choices in our scenes.

Positive choices can start with a simple hyper-yes at the top of your scene. Making the decision to know your scene partner's character and LIKE their character. From there it's about looking for the good.

A lot of times, performers might think that the negative choice or being "bad" at their work/home/play situation will lead to funnier scenes or "it's my first day on the job" will also garner laughs. I, however, have found the opposite to be true. I find those scenes take more energy from me, require me to invent versus discover, and just leave me feeling "meh" when I walk off the stage.

Life outside the improv stage can be difficult, so why not make the stage a magical place of wonder where you find acceptance, fun, and love?

If you want to start fighting back the negativity bias in improv, I suggest opening a dialogue with your students, teammates, performers, and other improvisers. See what you can do to discover making positive choices and being awesome in your scenes. Discover together and transform you and those around you to just be awesome!

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